Miami Heat: Is LeBron James Already One of the Heat's All-Time Greats?
After a back-and-forth month, the Heat have seemingly exorcised their demons of inconsistency. Currently 5-1 through February, Miami shook off a mediocre 8-5 win-loss record in January and are in the midst of matching their longest win streak of the season at six (accomplished twice already).
Much of the credit concerning the Heat's current tear is undoubtedly due to LeBron James' phenomenal play. It poses the question: does it qualify the King as one of the Heat's greatest?
LeBron is averaging 31 points on a ridiculous 71.4 percent over his last five games. While two outputs of 92.9 and 81.8 percent may skew the scale slightly, his other three scoring displays ranged in the low-to-mid 60th percentile. James has also registered plus-30 points in all five games, setting the Heat record for most consecutive 30-point games.
It doesn't stop there for making history either; contributing to that extent in the scoring department, combined with his accuracy, makes LeBron just the third player in NBA history to do so. It places him alongside Adrian Dantley (in 1979) and Moses Malone (in 1982), which is somewhat remarkable.
Considering the great scorers over the last few decades, such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and even Kevin Durant, it is James who accomplishes the feat which has not been seen in more than 30 years. His ability to put the ball in the basket has never been questioned, but to label him a scorer doesn't seem fitting, considering LeBron's complete package of scoring, rebounding and distributing.
While such accolades further solidify James' place as one of the all-time greats, does it make a case for him within the Heat organisation, considering they were accomplished in a Miami uniform? LeBron's only in his third season with the team, yet he may have done enough to rank there already.
Is LeBron one of the Heat's All-Time Greatest?
Despite his short stint in South Beach, James' name is already scattered through the Heat's history books. The team came into the NBA in 1988 as an expansion franchise, so while their statistical records may not hold much, it shouldn't discount LeBron's achievements since signing in 2010.
He currently ranks ninth in scoring, 10th in defensive rebounding and fourth in assists. LeBron also comes in at ninth and 10th in field goals made and attempted, respectively, and is placed seventh in both free throws made and attempted. Defensively, James is listed at 10th in steals, yet doesn't make an appearance in the Heat's top 10 block leaders. However, his 141 rejections aren't far off 10th place Grant Long's total of 226 swats.
Miami has never been a particularly storied franchise, however their rivalry with the Knicks was certainly notable. In the last five or so seasons, the Celtics and the Bulls have jumped aboard the wagon of emulation against the Heat. Yet in terms of personnel, Miami does not have an incredible list of legendary names to their records.
Aside from Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal, the South Beach All-Star roster wears thin against other franchises. That isn't to take away from any current or past players, such as the hard-working Udonis Haslem and former Heat forward Keith Askins, but the lack of star power seemingly makes LeBron's induction into the Heat's all-time greats much easier.
Miami has two championship banners to their rafters, the latter courtesy of James and co. last June. His phenomenal play during the postseason kept the Heat in the running for their title, as the majority of the supporting cast were injured, including Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Trailing against Indiana, and on the brink of elimination against Boston, LeBron raised the bar to a whole other level in terms of carrying a team.
Winning a championship ring makes a solid case individually, especially considering James' overall skill and all-around talent. Doing so at the helm of an organisation, dragging the team on his back through injury and against the odds, makes a solid case for LeBron in terms of his acceptance as an all-time Heat great.
His short time with the team is the only fact to be judged, however do James' contributions and accomplishments in a Heat uniform thus far disregard it? It's certainly fair to call such an accolade premature, yet it would not be undeserved.
All statistics sourced from basketballreference.com and nba.com/stats
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